THE NIGHT ETERNAL is the eagerly-awaited final volume in Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy that began with THE STRAIN and continued with THE FALL. When I say “vampire trilogy,” I mean the real stuff here, so we don’t have drawn-out romantic suspense stories from the bloodsucker’s point of view. Those books are fine, but they’re not what this work and its predecessors are all about.
[THE NIGHT ETERNAL] has the potential to provide grist for discussion for years, if not decades, to come.
We’re talking about a terrifying, systematic world-wide takeover by the dark creatures, which leaves the earth dark, poisoned and under heel. Del Toro and Hogan leave no stone unturned in their descriptions; you’ll learn what vampire urine smells like and what blood type vampires like best, what kills them (it’s not a crucifix) and what repels them (it’s not garlic). Oh, and they don’t have to be invited into your home to obtain entry. If you see them strolling up the sidewalk, they’re coming. Keep a bullet ready for yourself, just in case.
This last installment takes place some two years after the beginning of THE STRAIN, when a plane lands in New York at the end of a fateful transcontinental European flight and signals the beginning of the end. As the novel commences, the subjugation of humankind by the Master --- more than just a fancy name for the head vampire --- is complete. The majority of the human race has been wiped out. Women with the correct blood type are kept in breeding pens, in order to provide blood stock with which to feed the vampires. A maintenance-level population is kept alive in order to keep things running as kind of a monstrous perpetual motion machine. Compliance with the Master gets you fed and sheltered, and keeps you alive. A few humans here and there form pockets of resistance that are systematically hunted down and wiped out.
One of the few remaining and very wanted groups is nominally led by Dr. Eph Goodweather, formerly with the Centers for Disease Control, whose ex-wife has been turned by the Master and now sits at the fiend’s right hand with Zack, Eph’s son, who believes his father to be dead and who is being groomed to succeed the Master. Eph is slowly succumbing to a steady ingestion of controlled substances, the result being that he is no longer reliable to the rest of the team, which includes a colorful and deadly exterminator named Vasily Fet; Dr. Nora Martinez, Eph’s former co-worker and lover; and Gus, a dangerously effective gangbanger whose devotion to family is the subject of one of the most chilling and memorable vignettes to be found in any of the three books. There is also one other: Quinlan, the mixed species offspring of the Master, who is bent on achieving a revenge that has been festering for centuries upon his father.
The secret to bringing the Master down is contained in an ancient text, couched in riddles and hidden in puzzles. If the secret can be revealed to the dim light of day, it will be Eph and his small group, human and otherwise, who will each contribute an element to the Master’s downfall that, in turn, will give humanity a second chance. The road and the method are hardly certain, though, and there is no guarantee by the end of the book that anyone --- or anything --- will be left alive.
The conclusion boils down to a conflict between two beings, each of whom uses the son of the other as a weapon. It is cataclysmic, horrifying and unexpected, terms that could be used to describe most of the novel. Is the book shocking? You bet. But it is also smartly told and seamlessly written. As with the two preceding volumes in the series, THE NIGHT ETERNAL takes its readers on a journey through (a now deserted and desolate) New York, from its famous library to its (once) tony residences to places that no one would really have any good reason to go, other than for being extremely interesting and fascinating. At its core, however, the book is an allegory, one that certainly has the potential to provide grist for discussion for years, if not decades, to come. Don’t wait for the movie; set aside a night and read it now.